After months of rumors, it appears Netflix is finally ready to start cracking down on password sharers. A small segment of Netflix users began reporting the appearance of a message in their app before they can access their content. The message seems to warn users that if they don’t live with the owner of the account they’re using for access, they’ll need their own account to continue watching. After the message appeared, the users would have to enter a code sent via email or text or to create their own account. While this move may seem like an attempt to enforce account access policy, it feels more like an attempt to increase profit.
It’s fairly common knowledge that people with access to Netflix, share their usernames and passwords. While Netflix does explicitly mention in their Terms Of Service that account owners are not to share their login info with people OUTSIDE of their household. The truth of the matter is this… When it comes to accounts that people pay monthly subscriptions to access and said accounts continue to increase in price at the whim of the content provider, best believe they’re going to do as they see fit with it.
Consider it a consequence of conscious, or a consummate desire to “stick it to the man” but consumers are so often given the short end of the stick, that they find ways to work around app restrictions. One of those workarounds just happens to be sharing a password to an app that allows them to watch content on “Up to four screens at once” depending on which plan you choose. Mathematically, if I choose to share my logins with say, my mother who lives across town, theoretically Netflix loses ZERO on that transaction. See, the standard Netflix account costs users $8.99 a month. I pay for Netflix Premium, which at $17.99 a month means I pay the same cost that someone who subscribes at the basic level, times two. Long short, between sharing my login with my Mom, I am technically violating the terms of service, but I’m also not costing them any money in the process.
So, what’s the long-term solution? My scenario isn’t particularly unique, but it’s also not the standard. Tons of Netflix users share logins with more than just one person, and that’s where the issue lies. But instead of trying to govern their user base by forcing them into separate accounts, perhaps now is the time to embrace the login sharing that has become common across ALL streaming services, not just Netflix. The solution could be a simple as inviting users to share access to their account, by giving them a limited amount of sub-account access instead of “screens.” That way, Netflix can still control the narrative, while also giving users more control over what happens with their accounts. It’s kind of perfect.
This could be the start of something truly momentous, but Netflix has to be able to see what’s happening here. Their service is incredibly popular, and this could be a moment to figure out how to BOTH enforce their account access policy while onboarding more users. Maybe it’s time for Netflix to stop viewing their subscriber base as “screens” and instead move towards a more “people-focused” pay model.